The spike in weight gain that the current generation of children is experiencing is the fault of parents because they influence what their children eat, how often they exercise, and what values they have.
The life expectancy of each consecutive generation has been steadily climbing upward, until now. In some areas, up to a third of children are obese and the majority of them will grow into obese adults, which will lead to younger deaths. But do we blame our current society for making it easy to be inactive or making unhealthy food also the cheapest, most convenient food? No. Parents are those who should care the most about their child’s quality of life and life expectancy but recent studies show how detrimental parent’s actions can be to their children’s health.
Obesity in a child is directly linked to how he was raised because from a child’s first breath to the moment he reaches independence, parents are responsible for developing his eating habits. It is important to begin fostering proper nutrition early because people develop their food preferences and their general patterns of eating early on in childhood. Children are more likely to eat foods that they are exposed repeatedly early on in life (Lindsay 171). Parents need to realize that the foods and drinks their children are exposed to will remain embedded in their subconscious and affect their likelihood of being healthy.
Monitoring food choices is not only important in the first few years but parents also have the responsibility of maintaining a healthy household until the child leaves the nest. In order to prevent weight gain, parents should limit the times they go out to dinner or order fast food and pizza. Unhealthy food should be limited and healthy low calorie snacks should be made readily available to kids of all ages. When kids come to the age where they have to eat meals at school, parents can pack them a healthy nutritious lunch rather than the convenient route of handing them 5 dollars and hoping they don’t spend it all on cookies.
Similarly to their responsibility to foster good nutrition, parents need to promote physical activity in their child’s life. Some may assume that it is part of the child’s personality, their natural likes and dislikes, if they enjoy being active. This is proven false by studies that show children are more likely to be active if their parents are (O’dea 300). Young children don’t know what exercise is or how to be active so they are fully relying on the responsible adults in their lives to promote safe opportunities for physical activity (Hills 54).
If physical activity doesn’t seem like a factor in preventing obesity, read into the many studies that prove “physical activity is associated with lowering risks of accelerated weight gain and excess adiposity among preschool aged children” (Lindsay 172). Having a proven, studied method of prevention for a disease and then not utilizing it to its fullest potential is a reason that their children are growing wider. If exercise is a normal part of a child’s life, they will forever keep making good choices to protect that body. Parents however are main promoters of exercise and if they fail to do so, their children will have a greater risk of becoming obese.
In addition to simply enforcing how to eat and exercise, parents must also be role models in every aspect of health. One study showed that the likeliness that a child would be active increased when both of his parents were also active (Lindsay 172). When a whole family becomes involved in a fitness program, the changes are easier to make because the child will have endless outlets of support to turn to (Hills 154). Parents and older role models can greatly impact the life decisions that a child makes, and proven by studies, children will have a greater desire to be active if their role models are too.
Parents who are inactive can have the same effect. When parents watch two or more hours of TV a day, their children are twice as likely to be inactive than in families where parents make watching TV a special treat (Lindsay 173). Parents shouldn’t let children have TV’s in their bedrooms, however the majority of parents see TV as a free babysitter and a way to easily entertain their children with little effort so many are putting TV’s in their children’s rooms. About 68% of children have a television in their bedroom (Lindsay 174). Excessive TV viewing has been linked to weight gain so parents should be enforcing rules that limit screen time among their children.
Nutritionally, parents should practice what they preach in order for their children to latch on to the healthy behaviors they need to avoid becoming obese. A child will eat what and how their parents eat.
If a child notices that his dad grabs a snack every time he sits down in front of the TV, the child will do the same probably for his whole life. If a child notices that his parents eat heaping portions of “bad” foods, the child will know that this is normal and he will try to do the same to be like his parents.
Ultimately, if parents can establish healthy eating habits and a love for physical activity while also practicing the rules they preach, childhood obesity can be avoided. Hopefully parents will become enlightened with the knowledge that it is their fault that their children are becoming obese and once they accept that, they can take the necessary measures to reverse the epidemic and prevent it from happening again.
Hills, Andrew (Editor), Neil King (Editor) and Nuala Byrne (Editor). Children, Obesity and Exercise. New York: Routledge, 2007. Print.
Lindsay, Ana C. “The Role of Parents in Preventing Childhood Obesity”. The Future of Children, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 169-186. Princeton University Spring, 2006. Web. 30 Oct. 2012.
O’dea, Jennifer (Editor), and Michael Eriksen (Editor). Childhood Obesity Prevention: International Research, Controversies and Interventions. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.
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